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Sunday
Apr212013

Study: Diet and Exercise Are Inseparable

Goodshoot/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- According to a new study, the best way to improve one's health is to start on a healthier diet and an exercise plan simultaneously.

While many find it easier to begin their health quest with just one or the other, the study from Stanford University found that altering one's diet and exercising more often are most effective when done at once.

The study, published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, analyzed data from 200 sedentary middle-aged men and women who were divided into four groups. One group began diet and exercise programs simultaneously, one began a diet plan and then exercise starting four months later, one began an exercise plan followed by a diet change four months later, and one only embarked on a stress management program. All four groups also received telephone counseling and education.

After 12 months, the group that made both changes at the same time was the most improved in all areas the study looked at, including exercising for at least 150 minutes per week, eating five to nine servings of vegetables per day and taking in 10 percent or less saturated fat per day.

Each of the other three groups failed at least one of the above areas.

The study did not, however, compare weight loss among the four groups.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep152011

Michelle Obama Touts Healthier Chain-Restaurant Menus

Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton(WASHINGTON) -- First lady Michelle Obama on Thursday praised a move by Darden Restaurants, the operator of Red Lobster, Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse and Bahama Breeze to cut calories and sodium in its meals and offer healthier options for children, calling it a “breakthrough moment” for the restaurant industry.

“Darden is doing what no restaurant company has done before,” Obama said at an event at a Maryland Olive Garden. “They’re not just making their kids’ menus healthier so that parents have more choices and more control; they’re making changes across their full menu at every single one of their restaurants throughout the country.  They’re looking at all the food they serve, and they’re asking themselves one simple question:  How can we improve the health of American families?”

Working with the Partnership for a Healthier America, the nonprofit that oversees the first lady’s “Let’s Move!” initiative, Darden has committed to reducing calories and sodium in its meals by 10 percent in the next five years and by 20 percent in the next 10.

In addition, fruits and vegetables will become the default side option on kids’ menus, replacing the ever-present French fries. Sugary sodas will also be absent from the menus going forward. Instead, 1 percent milk will be the default beverage, with free refills. Menus will also be revamped to promote the healthier choices.

Noting that Americans spend half of their food dollars at sit-down or fast-food restaurants, Obama said she can sympathize with busy families who want to eat right but just don’t have the time.
But too often, she said, kids’ meals in particular are loaded with far too many calories.

“So the bottom line is that Darden is making the healthy choice the easy choice.  And they’re making it the delicious and fun choice, too,” she said.

Orlando-based Darden is the world’s largest full-service restaurant company and owns and operates more than 1,900 restaurants that generate more than $7.5 billion in annual sales.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Aug182011

School Nutrition: Big Strides, Some Leftover Concerns

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains may not be something you associate with school cafeterias, but a new report released by the School Nutrition Association shows you can find all those things in 97 to 98 percent of America's schools.

Helen Phillips, president of the School Nutrition Association, tells ABC News that school lunches are really changing.

“Across the country we are seeing that more school districts are providing fresh fruits and vegetables, more school districts are providing an increased in whole grain foods that we offer to students,” Phillips said. “Also, milk is changing from being a whole fat milk down to skim or 1 percent milk.”

This most recent report comes as the country continues to battle obesity, and perhaps more alarming – obesity among children.

“Down the road it's going to save so much money in health care by having kids that aren't being a burden on the system,” Phillips said.

One area that still needs work, Phillips notes, is the amount of sodium that appears in children’s food.

“We've been kind of trained as Americans to have a little bit of a saltier taste for things, so by schools cutting back, we kind of need help from industry, restaurants and the parents at home to do the same.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jul202011

First Lady and Grocers to Bring Healthy Food to Millions Living in Food Deserts

Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton(WASHINGTON) -- First lady Michelle Obama announced Wednesday that she has recruited major national retail giants to join her campaign to provide fresh fruits, vegetables and other nutritious foods to areas of the nation with little access to healthy food.

Walmart, Walgreens, SuperValu and other regional retailers have agreed to open or expand more than 1,500 stores over the next five years to bring fresh foods to the country’s food deserts.  

Executives from some of the companies involved in the partnership were on hand for remarks made by the first lady in the East Room of the White House.

"The commitments you all are making today have the potential to be a game changer for our kids and for our communities all across this country," said Mrs. Obama.

The first lady said that she knows conventional wisdom suggests that retailers might not want to make investments in low-income communities, but that in order to end childhood obesity something has to be done about access to healthy foods.

She said part of her "Let’s Move" campaign is to give parents a healthy choice for their kids.  "We can talk all we want about calorie counts and recipes and how to serve balanced meals, but if parents can't buy the food they need to prepare those meals -- if their only option for groceries is at the corner gas station or the local mini mart -- then all of that is just talk."   

The government defines a food desert as an area in which 33 percent or 500 people live more than a mile from a grocery store in an urban area or more than 10 miles in the suburbs.  The White House says the partnership with grocers will serve millions of people.   

The government estimates that about 23.5 million Americans -- including 6.5 million children -- live in areas without stores likely to sell affordable and nutritious foods.  The White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity identified access to healthy, affordable foods as a key pillar to solving childhood obesity, the first lady said.

There was a light moment at Mrs. Obama's event.  She told those on hand, "This is a big deal. It is a really big deal.  I think our vice president put it better, but I’m not gonna...."

The audience laughed loudly realizing she was referring to when Vice President Biden was caught by a hot mic dropping the F-bomb when congratulating President Obama on the passing of health care reform.  "This is a big f----ing deal," the vice president said.

Mrs. Obama kept things G-rated.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jul202011

Michelle Obama: I'm in Better Shape than the President

ABC/Donna Svennevik(WASHINGTON) -- In a new cover story for Better Homes and Gardens, First Lady Michelle Obama opens up about her family’s struggle to lead a healthier lifestyle and even jokes that she’s now in better shape than the president.

After a trip to the pediatrician’s office encouraged her to change her family’s diet, the first lady explains how she quickly learned that she could make a big difference by paying attention to the small stuff. “I started thinking ‘I’ve done some really minor things -- not a wholesale change that my kids would even notice,’” she tells the magazine.

“Children’s habits can be changed so much easier than adults,” says the first lady, who has made fighting childhood obesity her personal cause. “They don’t have control over their diets -- we do.”

Mrs. Obama admits that life at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. took some getting used to and that she’s upped her workouts to make up for her more sedentary lifestyle. Now, however, she says she’s in better shape than her husband.

“I always tease him I’m in better shape than he is,” she says. “I can do long workouts. He’s the president,” she says.

The first lady-- who on Wednesday announces new partnerships to bring more fruits and vegetables to “food desserts” -- stresses that the home front is crucial to changing children’s eating habits.

She admits that it wasn’t always easy to put healthy meals on the dinner table. “I had two little kids; I was busy...We had take-out at least three times a week. I didn’t realize that these habits were affecting my kids’ health. It was just what I felt I had to do to survive and keep the household going,” she explains to Better Homes and Gardens.

The first lady also reveals she didn’t always love eating her veggies. “My brother Greg [sic] and I, we have our stories about scooping the lima beans onto the floor and then coming back later and cleaning them up,” she says.

The August issue of the magazine marks the first time in more than four decades that a public figure has graced the cover. The nine-page spread on Mrs. Obama comes complete with glossy photos of the first lady hosting a White House picnic with local school kids using foods from her White House garden.

While her vegetable patch has been embraced by the public, Mrs. Obama says First Daughter Malia was not pleased with all of her mother’s plans for the garden. Malia “was not happy about the fact that we were going to have a beehive -- she’s terrified of bees,” the first lady says. It’s not clear if Malia has come around to the bees or not.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jul142011

Mediterraneans Ditch Their Famously Healthy Diet

Medioimages/Photodisc(NEW YORK) -- The Mediterranean diet -- rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy oils -- has been praised for its ability to stave off obesity, diabetes, heart disease and even arthritis and Alzheimer's disease.

All the benefits come to naught, however, if no one is willing to follow it. While the obesity epidemic continues to grow in the United States, even those native to the birthplace of the Mediterranean diet have forsaken their healthful culinary roots for a more modern, processed, obesity-inducing diet.

As early as 2008, while the Mediterranean diet was experiencing a surge of popularity state-side, a United Nations report by Josef Schmidhuber, senior economist of the U.N's Food and Agriculture Organization, wrote that the diet had "decayed into a moribund state" back in the 16 Mediterranean countries that made it famous.

Instead, those living around the Mediterranean wanted food that was "too fat, too salty and too sweet," Schmidhuber said. Today, that trend continues, with researchers in the region reporting that more and more, young people are shunning traditional diets for processed food and a sedentary lifestyle.

"How tragic, then, that rather than importing the Med diet to the U.S., we are exporting to the Med region the very dietary and lifestyle practices that have given us rampant obesity and diabetes, and unsustainable disease care costs," said Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center.

But is the growing love of fast food and soda simply the exportation of the American diet, or is it the product of modern living and affluence? That even Mediterranean young people are opting for these kinds of cheap, fast, convenience food options might shed light on why the Western world, in general, is rapidly expanding its waistline.

Although undoubtedly one of the healthiest diets, the Mediterranean diet has received some flack in the United States for being an expensive one. The fresh produce, olive oil and fish that make up the stables of the diet are all many times more expensive than the processed meats, fats and carbohydrates that are the staples of junk food diets.

"Studies have shown that if you shop around the edges of the supermarket, where all the fresh produce and dairy is, you pay about 10 times more for every 100 calories of food you get when compared to shopping in the middle of the store, where the chips, snacks and processed foods are," said Dr. Carla Wolper, senior clinical nutritionist at New York Obesity Research Center at St. Luke's Hospital in New York City.

"The amount of junk food consumed in the U.S. has mostly to do with how cheap it is, especially in the recession."

Other research has tracked how those on welfare eat and found that how much junk and fast food people eat is tied to how recently they received their welfare check, Wolper said.

"When people get their checks, they tend to spend it quickly, and towards the end while they're waiting for the next check, that's when they eat the most junk food," she said.

Today, the cheapness of processed foods in the United States and abroad makes healthy diets, rich in the staples of the Mediterranean cuisine, a privilege of the affluent. The great irony, however, is that the Mediterranean diet evolved as the diet of the poor, agrarian classes in that region.

"This diet was developed out of economic necessity," Wolper said. Fruits and vegetables were grown in backyards, olive oil was made in the home, and meat was expensive so it was eaten rarely, she said.

But as soon as fatty, sugary, salty foods become more affordable -- as made possible by modern processing of food -- people, no matter their nationality, became more likely to eat it because of human nature, Katz said.

"Throughout most of human history, calories, sugar, salt, and fat were scarce, and needed for survival…and physical activity was unavoidable. All homo sapiens -- American, Mediterranean, and otherwise -- are hard-wired to like the foods that provide these. So, once a food supply becomes available that delivers these in abundance, in abundance they are consumed," he said.

Even as Americans were trying to export the Mediterranean peasant diet back to the States for its health benefits, those living in that region were growing out of that farming lifestyle and the diet it created and growing into a more affluent, industrialized society keen on convenient, processed foods.

Now, nations such Greece are growing into the expanded pant sizes that come with such a dietary shift, with three quarters of the Greek population tipping the scales at overweight or obese. Similar obesity trends continue in Italy, Crete and other Mediterranean nations, especially among adolescents.

"We are all victims of our own success," Katz said. "We have devised a modern world in which physical activity is scarce and hard to get, and calories are unavoidable. Houston, we have a problem."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jul132011

Fast Food Chains to Offer Healthier Choices for Kids

George Doyle/Stockbyte(WASHINGTON) -- Nineteen fast food chains plan to offer healthier meal options on children's menus as part of a new initiative launched Wednesday by the National Restaurant Association.

The participating chain restaurants include Burger King, Chili's, IHOP, and Friendly's. The more than 15,000 restaurants that participate in the program will offer at least one meal combination that totals 600 calories or less, including a side dish of 200 calories or less.

"It's giving parents choices," said ABC News' chief health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser, who welcomed the news.

The types of food offered will also follow the U.S. Department of Agriculture's food guidelines. The offerings include more fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and low-fat dairy.

But for many restaurants, the number of less-healthy options could outweigh the new healthier ones. In one recent study, researchers at Yale University looked at 20 fast food chains that provided nearly 3,000 different food options for children. Only 27 of the food options met the required standards set by the initiative.

Another challenge might be getting kids to choose the more healthful parts of the menu.

"The big issue is, will they be promoting the healthy guidelines, or will it just be one item on the menu and kids will still go to the fries," said Besser.

Nearly 20 percent of children aged 6 to 11 are obese, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While a myriad of factors contribute to the growing rate of childhood obesity, a fierce debate brews on how to address the problem.

A group of Harvard researchers suggested that morbidly obese children should be taken away from their parents, according to an editorial the researchers published 2009 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

But according to Besser a better solution is to modify fast-food company's marketing strategies to children, revitalize physical education programs in schools, and provide more access to healthier foods in lower-income neighborhoods.

"Demonizing parents is not the way to go," said Besser. Some parents may be part of the problem, but educating parents is a better alternative than taking children away, he said.

"Hopefully this will help with the conversation, but it's not the solution," he said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun162011

Healthy Desserts? Popular Chains Shrink Treats, Cut Calories

Sold at Starbucks, cake pops are a portable combination of cake and icing, double dipped in premium chocolate. (Starbucks)(NEW YORK) -- Mini desserts are the latest trend to hit the food market. The bite-sized versions of favorite sweets offer all the taste without all the calories and guilt, especially if you aren't looking for a huge snack that will leave you sluggish. So, ABC's Good Morning America took a bite out of the most popular ones and here's the roundup.

Starbucks' Cake Pop: Starbucks recently launched its "Petites" line offering little snacks that will sweeten your afternoon calories. The treats are less that 200 calories and cost $1.50. Cake pops come in flavors such as tiramisu and rocky road, but if that's not your thing, there are also mini cupcakes and lemon squares.

The Mini-Blizzard: Dairy Queen's Blizzard is practically an American classic, but the 16-ounce size can have up to 470 calories. Now, DQ has offered an alternative for soft-serve lovers, the mini. The 6-ounce mini cup has about 200 calories.

Crumbs' Taste Cupcake:
The popular chain Crumbs has cupcakes in three sizes: their smallest, taste, which is about 100 calories, the classic size, which ranges from 220 to 440 calories, and finally the largest, or signature, which ranges from 400 to 660 calories.

PF Chang's Great Wall of Chocolate and New York Style Cheesecake Desserts: PF Chang's knows how to do chocolate desserts, and its Great Wall of Chocolate is one of the most popular. The normal dessert is meant to be divided among four people and has an average of 360 calories per person. But the mini is just 160 calories.

Now for the New York style cheesecake. PF Chang's has nailed the rich and decadent classic. The normal cake, which is meant for two people, averages 450 calories per person. If you opt for the mini, however, it's only 210 calories.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Apr132011

Chocolate Milk Debate Rages in Schools

Bananastock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Chocolate milk, that sweet childhood pleasure, has become the center of an intense health debate. Some health experts believe it contributes to childhood obesity, leading many school districts to place limits on its sale or ban it outright. But many doctors and nutritionists say leaving it off the menu deprives children of valuable nutrients they aren't likely to make up elsewhere. Parents are left wondering whether it's okay for their kids to drink it or not.

Milk consumption has plummeted from 25 to 20 gallons per year per person since 1990, even as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reports that most kids don't get enough calcium and several other "shortfall" nutrients milk offers in abundance. Increasingly, children tend to drink the majority of their milk at school and increasingly, the majority of the milk they drink is flavored -- more than 70 percent of it, according to the Milk Processor Education Program, the dairy industry's advocacy group.

Therein lies the dilemma: Provide kids with essential nutrients lacking in their diet, or limit their access to sugary, high-calorie foods?

"Flavored milk is far less sugary and tends to have fewer calories and more nutrition than beverages like soda," said Keith Ayoob, associate clinical professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine in New York City. "Children who drink flavored milk are no more likely to be overweight and are more likely to get enough calcium and eat a better diet than kids who don't."

There is support to this claim. A survey of 58 elementary and secondary schools across the country that removed the chocolate version of moo juice from cafeterias for two years and offered only the white version found a 32-to-64-percent drop in the amount kids drank depending on the grade, in part because they stopped fully draining the carton.

"That isn't even the whole story either. Kids will simply hold their thirst until after school and head to the nearest corner store to order something that is a far worse choice. Better to give them the chocolate milk," Ayoob said.

But not everyone agrees.

"This is like asking your kids to eat more apples by giving them apple pie," said Ann Cooper, a leading advocate for healthy school lunches. "Chocolate milk is just sugary soda in drag."

While complete school bans are on the increase, some have yielded to pressure from students, parents and special interest groups and settled on a compromise of sorts. They've ordered reformulated the beverages that are lower in fat and calories and that replace high fructose corn syrup with sugars made from sucrose or beets.

Compared to typical half pint of chocolate milk which has 170 calories, 28 grams of sugar and one percent fat, the new kind has just 130 calories, 22 grams of sugar and almost no fat. A 20-ounce bottle of cola has 150 calories and 40 grams of sugar.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar232011

Survey: Are Americans Feeling Healthy?

Jim Arbogast/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- Too many of us are overweight or obese, we’re not exercising enough, we’re still smoking and Alzheimer’s disease is rising. So how are we feeling about our health as a nation? Pretty good, actually. 

A survey by the National Center for Health Statistics on Americans’ general health assesses 15 health measures, such as health insurance coverage, rates of flu and pneumococcal vaccinations, obesity, smoking, diabetes, asthma and others.  Americans are also asked to rate their own general health as excellent, very good, good, fair and poor. 

Although the percentage of people who rated their health as excellent or very good decreased slightly from 69 percent to 66 percent from 1997 to 2010, some 90 percent of Americans still rate their health as good or better.  This positive self-assessment is particularly interesting if one considers that some measures of health have been decreasing.

For example, the percentage of people who failed to obtain medical coverage due to cost in the past 12 months increased from 4.5 percent in 1997 to seven percent in 2010.  Cases of obesity and diabetes increased from 19.5 percent to 28.2 percent and 5.3 percent to 8.4 percent, respectively.
 
Other changes are more positive.  Rates of flu and pneumococcal vaccinations also increased significantly, along with HIV testing.

The report also showed that smoking has decreased.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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